The Scottish government’s decision to extend rates relief on new-build full-fibre broadband networks for five years longer than in England and Wales will see new locations north of the border fast-tracked by Openreach.
Non-domestic rates relief for businesses investing in new infrastructure came into effect on 1 April 2019, and in extending the package to 2029, connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse said the government had been listening to industry and was determined to keep Scotland at the “forefront of the digital revolution”.
National network builder Openreach has now said it will begin work on its full-fibre – also known as fibre-to-the-premises or FTTP – network build in four more locations in Scotland as a direct result of this move.
The new digs will take place in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, and Bathgate, Broxburn and Whitburn in West Lothian.
At the same time, Openreach has announced 32 other new builds around the UK, taking the total number of locations to 74. It is currently working towards making full-fibre available to four million homes by 2021.
“One headwind to investment which affects all full-fibre builders is business rates, and we have been encouraged by the Scottish government’s move to extend rates relief north of the border,” said Openreach chief executive Clive Selley. “I am convinced that prioritising investment in faster, more reliable and future-proof broadband networks will prove to be a no-regrets decision for future generations.
“We are pressing ahead with our investment and Openreach engineers are now building in communities all over the country, keeping us on track to deliver against the bigger ambitions we set out in May.”
Selley added: “The government wants to see a nationwide full-fibre network and we are keen to lead the way in helping them achieve that. We know that if it’s going to happen, Openreach will need to be at the front doing the heavy lifting, so we are working hard to build a commercially viable plan.”
Since launching its Fibre First programme 18 months ago, Openreach has more than doubled its full-fibre footprint, deploying about 2.6 million kilometres of fibre – enough to reach the Moon and back three times.
It now says it is passing 20,000 new homes and businesses every week across the UK, with more than 1.5 million properties now able to access an ultrafast service over its network. According to Ofcom’s most recent statistics, 510,000 households are now accessing the internet on a full-fibre connection.
Beside the Scottish builds, Openreach engineers will also be hitting the streets in Antrim, Barry, Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Broadstairs, Bromsgrove, Burgh Heath, Carrickfergus, Carryduff and Castlereagh in Belfast, Chelmsford, Cookstown, Craigavon, Doncaster, Downpatrick, Dungannon, Epsom, Ewell, Limavady, Magherafelt, Newcastle, Omagh, Ramsgate, Saintfield, Strabane, St Albans, Solihull, Slough, Sheffield, Torquay and Worthing.